Montana Here We Come – July 2018

Thursday July 12: Today we are leaving for Montana. I have spent several days getting the camper packed and things ready for us to leave, but there are always last-minute things to take care of. Clifford has to pack lab items and he has a call with a CI consultant. It is 4:00 in the afternoon before we are finally on our way.

Castle Rock north of Monticello on Highway 191
Wilson Arch south of Moab on Highway 191

After a brief stop in Moab, we continue on north. The route between Moab and Price, Utah, being rather barren, is not my favorite part of the state and I’m glad when we reach the Price Walmart where we’ll spend the night.  We set up in the back lot with a tree beside us, balancing between the hiss of the street light and the rumble of a semi engine. We pick up a few supplies, then opt for an easy soup dinner tonight.

Friday July 13: We finish stocking up and get a much earlier start today, winding our way through the scenic canyons of Utah south of the Salt Lake City complex.

Canyon country north of Price, Utah
Wasach Range

We arrive at Diamond Campground south of Spanish Forks in early afternoon. Although most spots are taken or reserved, we find a pretty spot with shade and privacy.

It seems quite hot here after having gotten used to the cooler elevation of Monticello. After a tuna sandwich, we take naps, avoiding the pesky bugs for awhile. Later on, we play frisbee, which I’m not very good at, but it was fun. After dinner, I have my usual routine of reading and writing in the journal before bedtime. Clifford always has books to study and his ham radio gear to work with.

Saturday July 14: We are spending the day here at Diamond CG so as to make our run through Salt Lake City on a Sunday morning. It is quite delightful having a day to hang out – reading, writing in the journal, playing viola, playing frisbee and going on a walkabout on the nature path with Clifford – like a real vacation!

The crest of the hill behind the campground

Sunday July 15: We are up at 8:00, and soon packed and on our way. It does help to get across Salt Lake City on a Sunday morning, but even so, it is my least favorite part of any trips we have made north and south. Sure wish there was some other efficient way to get from Montana to southern Utah.

 We arrive in Idaho Falls, Idaho, in the later afternoon and get set up along the stretch of grass and trees bordering the side parking lot at Walmart. After getting a few supplies, we go to Panda Express for dinner, as I am too tired to cook tonight. It is too hot to feel like doing much. This sure would be a good time to have a picnic table in the shade!

Walmart boondocking

 Monday July 16: We leave Idaho Falls about 10:00 a.m. and it is always exciting to cross over into Montana.

We stop in Dillon to see my cousin Bill and his wife Sally. Sally has a small, but gorgeous yard. We can’t stay long, as we need to reach our next camping spot and get set up, but it was nice to see them for a little while.

Southwest Montana

When we reach Divide Bridge Campground, I am excited to see a spot available by the Big Hole River. This is exactly the spot I was hoping for, but when I get out to help guide us in, I find that the mosquitoes are abundant and voracious. So, we drive to the far side of the campground away from the river, but don’t see any spots that we like. The compromise is the row of sites in between the dry side and the river. It is nice here with lawns and shrubs, but not so many mosquitoes. We find a spot with a tree and after getting set up, we sit out at the picnic table with cool drinks.

Camping at Divide Bridge Campground
Big Hole River

I am happy to be in Montana, and soon I’ll be seeing my kids and my other siblings. Montana, here we are!

Sunset at Divide Bridge Campground

Field Day on Abajo Mountain – June 2018

 

Thursday June 21: We are heading up Abajo Mountain today to Pine Flats, a dispersed area beyond the campgrounds, and setting up for Amateur Radio Field Day 2018. Leaving the paved highway, the road into Pine Flats is terrible, with deep ruts some places, rough and rocky in other spots. We had checked out this area last fall, so we have an idea of the layout. Creeping along at two miles an hour, we make our way to the branch that we’d like to take. We walk in first to make sure the road is passable and the spot free. Hooray, we are good to go, so continue creeping to a group of pine trees beyond a stand of aspens. The pine trees ofter shade and the aspens offer their graceful beauty.

Aspens add their graceful beauty

Once Terry (our 30 year old camper) is in place, the fridge won’t light. It is touchy in its old age, but we know what to do and soon we have a cold place to keep food. We set up our yurt tent for the first time, as it will offer outdoor protection from the flies and the breeze. We are delighted that this spot was available. Guess the bad roads keep most everyone out except the 4-wheelers.

Terry is set up in the pines for shade

Friday June 22: This morning I pick rocks while chatting on the phone with Becka, happy for cell service here on the mountain. The yurt tent is perfect for playing viola and writing in my journal away from pesky flies.

The yurt tent is a great place to play viola and write in journal

In the early afternoon I make a trip down the mountain to take care of errands and chores. It takes me much longer than planned and the sun is near setting by time I get back to camp. So glad to be here! Clifford has spent his day preparing for field day, which will start tomorrow at noon.

Saturday June 23: A lovely blue-sky day on the mountain with a few cumulus clouds floating around to keep the temperatures pleasant. I make tea and then sit in the sunshine for my morning quiet time. What a great place with its stillness and beauty.

A great place for outdoor quiet time

Walking down to the aspen grove, I see that these trees are suffering from the lack of moisture – no monsoons last summer and little snow pack during the winter, a pattern going on for several years from what we’ve heard.

I’m involved with phone calls and texts while Clifford concentrates on his ham radio field day activity. He is using several modes, has made 30 contacts with low power in six states and two countries so far. I know he will be up late into the night.

Amateur Radio Field Day is underway for Clifford

Sunday June 24: Another lovely day on the mountain. Clifford continues with his field day activities until it ends at noon. I text ham radio friends who are doing their field day in tents on a rainy mountainside in western Montana. Man, we sure do have it nice here!

Last contacts for Field Day 2018

I play viola in the yurt away from the breeze and the flies, read, and write in my journal until Clifford wraps his field day. Later, we go for a hike to see if there are any camping spots that we missed in case we come again and find this spot taken.

Monday June 25:

Catching the rising sun

Even though field day is officially over, we are going to stay on the mountainside. Clifford has received a portable high-quality microscope (which I brought up on the errand day), so his studies and research can continue right from the mountain. I take care of CI email and then begin the re-editing of Princes and Priests, Ang’s first book of the Novels of Shannon series. Later, Clifford and I go for a walk before dinner, and after dinner we read until time for bed.

Walking in the aspens near sunset

Tuesday June 26: I go for a long walk by myself this morning. This is really a beautiful area with the huge gnarly pines trees, aspens, scrub oak, among other vegetation.

Gnarly sub-species of ponderosa pine

Today is a day of editing for Ang, writing blogs, and editing photos. Viola, journal, and reading also find their way into my day. It is a study day for Clifford.

Study day for Clifford

Wednesday June 27: I pick up more rocks and load them into the Suburban before making another trip down the mountain for errands and home chores. At the post office I have a package from Becka, including the cutest leggings and a summer top. It is so fun to get a package!

Pretty leggings and summer top from Becka

I drive back up the mountain with the setting sun in my eyes (again). After we unload the groceries, I make nachos for dinner and even after sunset it is warm to eat outside. Then we go for a moonlight stroll, Clifford in his house shoes and me in my Tevas. Back at camp we read until bedtime.

Thursday June 28: Sure could use some rain here – only 1% humidity this morning! I show Clifford the bear scat that I found just beyond the scrub oak grove by our campsite. The first night we were here, I smelled something musky, almost like skunk, but not quite. From talking with Ang, I think it is was a bear, but he/she has not bothered us at all.

A shy visitor

Meals, calls and text conversations with my kids, playing viola, editing, and blog writing for me; studying, reading, writing and ham radio for Clifford – good day on the Abajo Mountain!

Gnarly pine tree behind our campsite near sunset

Friday June 29: Another lovely day on the mountain with all the usual good activities.

Good mountain activities

We receive good news that my brother Rollie has sold his house, bought a big Class A motor home, and is now officially a full-time RV’er. Way to go, Rollie!

Saturday June 30: Our last full day here. It has been a great camp and we might have talked ourselves into staying longer, but our webmaster is coming tomorrow, and soon we will begin preparations for our summer journey to Montana!

Our last evening at Pine Flats on Abajo Montain

Way Up on Abajo Mountain – May 2018

 

Sunday May 27: It is a beautiful spring morning, so we decide to go up Abajo Mountain for an outing. I make a picnic lunch and thermoses of tea, and off we go. For the first time, since we also like to explore, we turn left on the Lloyd’s Lake Road just outside Monticello and head up Abajo a different direction from where we’ve been before.

Abajo Mountain ahead

It’s a beautiful day for an outing with the blue sky and the variety of trees, aspens being one of my favorites.

Great blue sky

Aspens line the road at times

I have an ulterior motive: the neighbor has told me where I can gather rocks needed for the landscaping I’m doing in the back yard.

We go quite a ways up the mountain, not having yet seen the rock slide, and turn on a side road named Electronic Road. There is a tower of some sort here, and although it is not a great place to gather rocks or have a picnic, since we are here, I start picking up a few rocks. In less than ten minutes a 4-wheeler turns on the same road and it turns out it is a park ranger, probably wondering why we are so close to the tower. I tell him we are exploring and looking for a place to have a picnic and he recommends we go on up the road to the top where the main set of towers are – a great view, he says.

So we do that, but the further up we go, the more we wish we hadn’t. The road isn’t bad, but it is very narrow and no place to go if we meet someone coming down. Right before the last ascent to the towers themselves, there is a wide turnaround spot and we take advantage of that. The views are quite expansive.

Expansive views from way up on Abajo Mountain. Monticello and Lloyd’s Lake can be seen left center

Looking the other direction from the turnaround

On the way back down, we are ever so grateful not to meet anyone, other than motorcyclists who squeeze by us. We stop at the rock slide we passed on the way up and gather rocks.

One of several rock slides

A ways further down, we turn off onto a side road to a camp spot we had also passed on the way up. We set up a little table and have our picnic, relaxing as we enjoy our late lunch.

View of where we have been, as seen from the picnic pullout

It was a good outing, but we are not likely to take the road beyond the rock slide next time. That was far enough for us!

Landscaping moves forward with rocks from the mountain

 

Moab Outing – April 2018

Clifford and I returned to Monticello the very end of March after our winter journey to Arizona.

Abajo Mountain in SE Utah with snow into the early spring

April was a time to catch up with business and time in the lab for Clifford.  However, we did have one outing, mostly due to the fact that our Suburban needed to go back to the dealer in Moab to see if they could fix the ongoing problem we’ve had with it.

Castle Rock seen from Utah State Highway 191 between Monticello and Moab; La Sal Mountains in the background

We found a place to camp along the Colorado River – no small feat! – and then delivered the Suburban to the Chevy dealer.

The Colorado River along Highway 28 north of Moab is the boundary of Arches National Park

Terry is set up in the Drinks Canyon Campground

Small, but cozy and comfortable dwelling

We were given a ride back to our campsite and for the next week we waited without word and without transportation for our Suburban to be repaired.

The “restroom” at Drinks Canyon is rather rustic and leaves a bit to be desired.

In the end we, we got word to them that we couldn’t stay longer: Clifford had suffered a serious health issue and we were also trying to prepare for a trip to Tucson where Clifford would be speaking at a conference.

In spite of the uncomfortable side of the situation, it was also a time of enjoying being camped with a view of the river

Colorado River – view upstream from our campsite

Colorado River – view downstream from our campsite

Reflections on the river

Reflections on the river

Colorado River – view at sunset

and the great red mesas,

View of the mesa somewhat to the north of our campsite

View of the mesa right across the highway from our campsite on a sunny day.

View of the mesa on a partly cloudy day

and a young oak grove that provided shade so we could sit outside to do some of our work.

I sit at the picnic table to write in my journal with a morning cup of coffee

Clifford enjoys of the shade of the oak grove as he studies…

and as he plays his dulcimer

Although the Suburban was not repaired, the scenic surroundings were much appreciated as we hung out by the river waiting……..

A nearly full moon rises in the east at sunset

 

 

 

Grand Canyon – Heading North – March 2018

Thursday March 29:   This morning, we – Clifford, Rollie, Ninja, and I – are going to the Grand Canyon National Park, about 12 miles to the west of our boondocking spot on FR 307 off Arizona State Highway 64. I make tea for the thermoses and a picnic lunch, and off we go.

Our first stop is the Visitors Center at Desert View, located at the very east end of the park. We tour the Watchtower, an amazing and beautiful architectural work of art, inside and out. The architect and builder, Mary Colter, was a woman of great vision.

The Watchtower at Desert View

Panels of Native American art adorn the walls on every floor of the Watchtower

The staircase spirals upward along the outer wall, leaving an opening to the top

Replicas of petroglyphs on the walls of the Watchtower

Carol and Clifford at the Watchtower

Carol and brother Rollie at the Watchtower

I take photos of the canyon from Desert View. The lighting is not the best, but it is what it is.

Canyon views from Desert View

Far below, the Colorado River carves its way through the canyon

Every window of the Watchtower is placed so as to frame a geological feature, including this formation

After we leave Desert View for more sight-seeing, we stop at a picnic pull-out and enjoy our picnic lunch.

Picnic at the Grand Canyon

Then we drive on to Grand View Point, hoping to find the Rim Trail so Ninja can get out and walk with us, but no such luck, so he stays in the car.

A little slice of the Grand View

Next is Yaki Point and we find the Rim Trail. We have an enjoyable hike along the rim before we head back to camp.

Life on the trail near Yaki Poin

Rim Trail near Yaki Point

Along the way back, we stop to explore other dispersed camping areas on highway 64, but we like the spot where we are the best.

Back at camp, we enjoy a campfire and play music until it gets too chilly.

Then I make dinner for all of us and play a game of cribbage with Rollie. Later Clifford and I have a discussion about ozone and ether, topics of interest in connection with his research. And bed late.

Friday March 30: We are going to the Grand Canyon again this morning, leaving earlier and planning to be back in time for lunch here. No need to make a picnic, and since Rollie is going to buy me a latte at the Desert View Gift Shop&Store, no need for thermoses, either.

Rollie, Carol, and Clifford at the Grand Canyon

At Desert View, as we enjoy our hot beverages, we take more photos and chat with a couple from Pennsylvania.

Enjoying the view from Desert View while we chat with other visitors to the Grand Canyon

Today we go to Navajo Point, Lipan Point, and visit the Tusayan Museum.

Navajo Point

Lipan Point

We take lots of photos at every point and then return to camp in time for peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Easy and tasty!

Rollie and I explore further up the road from where we are camped and find a much larger campsite, one that could work for us in the future, should we come this way again.

We have breakfast burritos for dinner by the campfire, a pleasant and relaxing end to our couple of days here.

Dinner at the campfire

Saturday March 31: We start packing as soon as we are up, leaving FR 307 once we are all ready. It has been a good spot, but it really is time for us to get back to Monticello. Rollie is going to caravan with us that far, which will give him a day to relax and get his laundry caught up before he heads on north to Montana.

The caravan leaves FR 307

We backtrack to highway 89, then travel north until we reach the junction with highway 160, which runs east across the northern tier of Arizona.

Badlands of northern Arizona

There are some crazy drivers here, passing when it is not safe to do so. There is a roll-over near Kayenta… not surprisng, but still sad for those involved. There is a long delay before we can go on.

Arriving at the junction to highway 191, we turn north and soon we are in Utah and back to our home base, no longer nomads for the time-being.

The Abajo Mountains come into view

It was a lot of miles, with many good camping spots and beautiful places to see, photograph, and hike. Plans are already underway for a trip to Montana in this summer…..

Sedona Scenic Drive – Heading North – March 2018

 

Monday March 26: It is clear and calm this morning, so we – Clifford, Rollie, and I – decide to go sight-seeing in the Sedona area. By the time we are ready to go — what with showers, breakfast, and making a picnic lunch, then driving to Sedona and finding the recommended scenic road — jet spray has started to mar the sky and the wind is kicking up. In spite of that, we continue as planned.

We go to the Dry Creek View Point, which we find to be very popular, even on a Monday morning, with the trail head parking lot full and cars parked along the road.

Dry Creek Trail Head

Dry Creek View Point

Dry Creek View Point

Hard to imagine what a weekend would be like. We hike the trail a ways; very scenic, except for the jet trails and haze in the sky.  Of course, I take lots of photos anyway and will come up with a few to save.

Clifford on Dry Creek Trail

Clifford, Rollie, and Ninja on Dry Creek Trail

Dry Creek Trail

Dry Creek Trail

Dry Creek Trail

We also drive out Boyton Road as far as the pass. There are some pull-outs, but way too many people. Really, the weekends must be a bit of a nightmare.

Boyton Road Drive

Back in town we go to to the Sedona Community Park for a picnic. It is a nice park, lots of tables with shelters, lawns and great trees… and we almost have the place to ourselves.

View from the Sedona Community Park

On the way back to our camping area on FR 525, we drive the Red Rock Loop Road, which is also very scenic and not nearly the traffic. We stop at a pull-out and hike up a little knoll for a great view of Castle Rock, which was the most interesting part of the outing, in my opinion.

Castle Rock seen from Red Rock Loop Road

Back at camp, I download photos and then make dinner for all of us. Tidy up the kitchen, but no dishes tonight. A game of cribbage, followed by writing in the journal wraps up the day.

Sedona – Heading North – March 2018

Friday, March 23: Today is another travel day; we say good-bye to Agua Fria National Monument and head north on I-17. At Camp Verde, we stop for gas and then continue on state highway 260 to 89a toward Sedona, where Clifford is meeting with environmental activist, Matt Landman.

We find Forest Road 525 south of Sedona, which we learned has dispersed camping. What we didn’t know was how popular this road is. We drive out on FR 525 for several miles, but every pull-out is already occupied. Finally we turn back toward the largest of the pull-outs, just a ways off the highway. Even though there are several other campers already here, the pull-out is spacious and RV’s of all sorts are parked along the perimeter. It is sort of like a little village.

RV Village – we and Rollie are parked left of center

We and Rollie find open spots big enough to pull into without crowding anyone and get set up. There are no trees and we can’t see the red mesas, which this area is famous for, but it is only for a few days, so we will make do.

We set up our screen tent for the first time so Rollie and I have a place to play music a little out of the wind. Later Rollie joins us for dinner and I just barely win a game of cribbage. Too late and too tired to write in the journal tonight.

Saturday, March 24: Chilly and windy this morning with jet trails marring the sky. I have tea with Rollie and after breakfast, we walk up the nearby Ranch Loop Road to check it out for possible future camping spots.

Red rocks, juniper, and meadow grass

It is a scenic walk, red rock, junipers, and meadow grass, but the spots for camping are limited. Then we hike the hill behind the pull-out where we are camped. A good walkabout for us.

After breakfast, Rollie and I play music in the screen tent, but it is too chilly with the wind, so we soon pack up. Just a minute after we move out of the screen tent, a gust of wind causes it to collapse; the tent poles are being seriously bent, and luckily Rollie notices that I need some help releasing the tension before the poles break. We get the tent safely down and pile tables and chairs on it to keep it from blowing away. No time to pack it up now, as we are leaving for Sedona.

Scenic drive to Sedona

We are camped close to Sedona, as Clifford has an interview scheduled with Matt Landman, who has done exceptional work in bringing attention to serious environmental issues. We meet Matt, a young man full of energy and enthusiasm, and watch his documentary “Frankenskies,” a very well-researched presentation of the environmental issue of toxins in the skies. Plans are made for the interview with Clifford tomorrow.

Back at camp, I make breakfast burritos for dinner and nearly get skunked at cribbage with Rollie. I keep planner current, but no time for journal before heading to bed.

Sunday, March 25: Chilly wind this morning, so not spending much time outside. Clifford’s interview is this afternoon, but his only dress shirt is quite wrinkled, so I “iron” it by heating enamel cups on the stove and pressing them against the dampened shirt. Very slow, but it works.

Today I play viola inside; just too windy and chilly outside. I do some editing for Ang, the second book of her “Dragons of Va’ha’den” series. Then off we go to Sedona.

While Clifford has the interview with Matt, Rollie and I go with Matt’s partner Amanda to a cool little organic health food store/eatery and have the best cup of coffee ever! We sit and chat so long that we miss the Farmer’s Market, but instead we go on up the hill to the Buddhist stupa, Amitabha Stupa.

Meandering the scenic trails at Amitabha Stupa

It is very scenic and peaceful, and we take our time wandering about on the trails and pacing around the Buddhist structure at the center of the property.

Buddhist structure at the stupa

After we return to Matt and Amanda’s place, the interview being successful completed, we decide to go to a brewery for pizza and a beer to celebrate the success of the day. The seating for the brewery is in a courtyard and luckily we find seats at the campfire, as the evening is quite chilly. It is really nice to have more time to visit before heading back to camp.

Aqua Fria National Monument – Heading North – March 2018

Wednesday March 21: Clifford had a rough night, but we are still planning on leaving Molino Basin Campground this morning to begin the journey back to Monticello, our Utah home base. Besides the packing up, we – and Rollie – also have to stop for gas, water, and propane. It is early afternoon by time we finally leave Tucson.

Good-bye to the saguaros on Mount Lemmon

So much traffic, but we make it through Phoenix without mishap. We are now on I-17 and take exit 259 to the Agua Fria National Monument, which we learned about from our musician camping friend, Rachel.

Rock formations in Agua Fria National Monument

There is some confusion about which side of the highway we are supposed to be on, and after driving a ways on the road to the west, we backtrack and enter the national monument on the east side of I-17. The road is not great, but we find a spot about a mile from the exit where both we and Rollie can get set up on fairly level ground.

Boondocking in the Agua Fria National Monument

First thing we do after getting set up is pick up trash – lots of it. Ugh. But on the plus side, the ground is strewn with beautiful variegated quartz rocks and other rugged and colorful stones.

Clifford is feeling worse, so goes down for a nap before the propane is turned on. I can’t get fridge or range working, but luckily Rollie comes over and figures out the problem. I have soup with Rollie for dinner, as Clifford is not up to eating tonight.

Thursday, March 22: There was some rain in the night, which seems surprising in this unusually dry desert landscape.

I am up before sunrise, but I left my camera at Rollie’s last night, so miss the shot of the rising sun. I go on to his camper to get the camera and stay to visit a little. Clifford is feeling better this morning, but weak.

After breakfast, Rollie and I go for a hike to the rocky hill top and then beyond to look at the pinkish rocks.

Rollie, Ninja, and I hike to the top of the hill behind our campsites

Pinkish rocks in Agua Fria National Monument

Though the sky is dull overcast, the rocks are still interesting to see

Back at camp, I edit for awhile, then check texts and FB. A couple of my kids call – good that we can get cell service at such a remote location. Later, Rollie and I do music at his camper; too windy outside.

After dinner, we get packed up as much as we can (mostly we had not unpacked at this stop), as we will be heading toward Sedona in the morning. There must be more to see at this national monument, but it will have to wait for another time.